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exercises for the balanced development of the body (see also aerobicsaerobics
, [Gr.,=with oxygen], system of endurance exercises that promote cardiovascular fitness by producing and sustaining an elevated heart rate for a prolonged period of time, thereby pumping an increased amount of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles being used.
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), or the competitive sport derived from these exercises. Although the ancient Greeks (who invented the building called a gymnasium for them) and Romans practiced gymnastics, the modern exercises date from the early 19th cent., when Germany's Frederick Ludwig Jahn popularized what he called the Turnverein, an organization of "turners." Although Jahn's system, which employed more apparatus than modern gymnastics, enjoyed brief popularity at Harvard and in several U.S. cities with numbers of German immigrants, it was not until the 20th cent. that gymnastics became widespread in the America. Their eventual success came after their adoption for military training, their placement on the program (1896) of the revived Olympic games, and the inclusion of physical education in school curricula. Until 1972, gymnastics for men emphasized power and strength, while women performed routines focused on grace of movement. That year, however, Olga Korbut, a 17-year-old Soviet gymnast, captivated a television audience with her innovative and explosive routines. In 1976, Romania's Nadia Comaneci became the first in Olympic gymnastic history to earn perfect scores. The popularity of Korbut and Comaneci launched a gymnastics movement in the United States that began to provide competition for long-established Russian and European programs. Internationally, men compete in rings, pommel horse, parallel bars, horizontal bar, vault, and floor exercises, as well as on the trampoline. Women compete in the vault, floor exercises, balance beam, and uneven parallel bars, as well as in rhythmic gymnastics and on the trampoline.


See J. Goodbody, The Illustrated History of Gymnastics (1983); P. Aykroyd, Modern Gymnastics (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a system of specially selected physical exercises; a methodical regimen adopted to reinforce the health and harmonious physical development and to perfect the motor abilities of the individual, as well as his strength, agility, speed of movement, and endurance.

The regimen of exercises makes it possible to influence the organism as a whole, develop separate groups of muscles and organs, and regulate the exercise load according to sex, age, and the level of physical development.

Gymnastic exercises are classified as drill, total development, applied, free, and apparatus exercises, as well as jumps, calisthenics, and acrobatics. Drill exercises— assorted, building, rebuilding, movement, and closing and opening the ranks—are used to teach walking, running, correct posture, and organization of students and their group action. Total development exercises promote general physical development and prepare students for more complicated motor activities. Applied exercises (walking and running, throwing, climbing, balance exercises, overcoming obstacles, crawling, and lifting and carrying weights) develop indispensable skills. Free exercises develop and perfect the students’ coordination. Exercises on gymnastic equipment (the horse, rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar for men, and the beam and uneven parallel bars for women) develop strength, agility, and high coordination of movement. Base jumps, which are performed by pushing with the legs and then the hands, train the respiratory organs, aid blood circulation, and develop and strengthen the leg muscles. Simple jumps (that is, without a base) provide the same benefits. In the USSR basic gymnastics (including both hygienic and athletic gymnastics) is cultivated, as well as applied gymnastics—exercises done by workers during breaks in the workday (industrial gymnastics), applied-professional gymnastics, and applied-sport gymnastics. Sport gymnastics, artistic gymnastics, and sport acrobatics are also encouraged. Basic gymnastics is used to promote the general physical development and strengthen the health of school children, preschool children, and adults and to facilitate the mastering of basic motor skills.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about gymnastics?

Gymnastic displays in dreams symbolize agility and strength to spontaneously leap and twist in and out of circumstances and dilemmas, with artistry, grace, and poise.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. practice or training in exercises that develop physical strength and agility or mental capacity
2. gymnastic exercises
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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